When we go through hardships in life, it can be helpful to know we are not alone. The Ribbons of Love group provides blankets to those who are sick or in need, offering comfort during difficult times. John Merced coordinates the group and helped to get it started.
“We’ve given out over 2,000 blankets since we’ve started, they’ve gone all over the world,” John says.
The group began about seven years ago after the hospital chaplain approached John to see if he could help with giving blankets to hospital patients. John, who was already involved with the Hospital Ministry, helped to establish the group by approaching people in our community. Now, a group of community volunteers meets at St. Thomas Episcopalian Church every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. to knit and crochet blankets.
“They knit and joke, and get the job done,” John says.
The group officially became a ministry here in our church about three years ago, even though some of the members are not parishioners. Most of the members are themselves cancer survivors.
For several years, John has been visiting hospital patients and bringing them Communion through the Hospitality Ministry here in our parish. Whenever he visits, he brings a few blankets in case he encounters people who might need them. The blankets are blessed by our parish priests and provide great consolation to all who receive them.
John has heard stories of many patients who peacefully pass after being given a blanket, a sign that they were consoled and ready to move on. He also considers it a great way of reminding them they are not alone, as they can use and wear the blanket after he visits with them. All of the patients are touched by the gift of a blessed blanket.
“It’s another way to serve God’s children,” John says. “Most ministries you see them and leave, but with this I stay with them, God stays with them. It’s a reminder of God.”
John hand-delivers many of the blankets crafted by the ministry members, but he has also personally shipped them as far as Puerto Rico and beyond. If someone needs a blanket, he will get one for them. He also credits the work of fellow ministry coordinator Madeline Vazquez and the help of Maria Pieriera from the Portuguese community.
The group has also produced hats for NICU babies, wigs for children with cancer, and scarves for soldiers overseas. Each Christmas, the group provides the hospital with 100 to 150 blankets. If someone wishes to get involved, they can donate yarn and gift cards, or contact John to learn more.
“We are open to volunteers joining,” he says. “They’ll even teach you how to crochet.”